Juliane from Switzerland volunteered as a teacher in the village of Muungoni in Zanzibar and provided us with a detailed report about her stay! In our blog, Juliane describes why she thinks that being flexible and adaptable is key during a volunteer placement abroad.
Arrival and first week
I have spent a total of 5 weeks in Tanzania and Zanzibar. During my first week I traveled Tanzania. Afterwards, I lived in the village of Muungoni in Zanzibar for 4 weeks and volunteered as a teacher at the village school.
To sum up my trip to Tanzania: Beautiful sceneries, a colorful and diverse culture, a red clay soil and lush green landscapes – Tanzania is a wonderful country for travelers! A two-day safari took me to the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara. At these National Parks you can watch all kinds of African wildlife: Elephants, monkeys, zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinoceroses and even lions.
For me, the Maasai people were particularly fascinating. On the one hand, many Maasai still life a very simple and traditional life. However, you will also see many of them already using smartphones or riding modern bicycles on the road, which I often had to smirk about.
On the photo you can see some Maassai kids at Ngorongoro National Park.
I highly recommend everyone to travel Tanzania! Tanzania is an incredibly beautiful and extremely friendly country with a stunning nature and wildlife, and a fascinating culture.
By the way, you will meet volunteers from all over the world at many locations in Tanzania and I think that Tanzania is an excellent choice for volunteering, simply because there are so many things to do and to explore (Kilimanjaro, Safaris, Maasai, Katzensprung to the borders of Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda).
Arrival in Muungoni (Zanzibar)
I traveled from Arusha to Daressalam by bus and from there to Zanzibar by ferry. The bus ride from Arusha to Dar-es-Salaam takes around 12-14 hours, depending on the traffic in and around Daressalam, and costs about USD 15. If left Arusha early in the morning at around 06:00 and arrived in Dar at night around 07:00. I spent the night in a hotel near the port to catch the ferry to Zanzibar on the next morning.
Despite the long journey I have enjoyed taking the bus because I got to see lots of stunning landscapes during the ride. However, for those who prefer a more comfortable trip, I recommend a flight from Arusha to Zanzibar.
In Zanzibar, I was picked up by Abdi (World Unite! coordinator) who took me to Muungoni where I was warmly received by Mr. Mohammed (project coordinator in Muungoni) who also introduced me to the village.
I really liked the village and being somewhere in the middle of a tropical forest, as well as the humid and warm jungle-like climate. It felt just right to be there.
My accommodation in Muungoni
My accommodation is a pretty and quite spacious cottage with a thatched roof, consisting of 3 rooms: A bedroom, a functional bathroom, and a living room with tables and chairs. Of course, the standard is rather simple, but there is basically everything you need. Compared to most of the villagers’ houses, my accommodation is a fairly comfortable place to stay.
The bathroom has a western toilet, sink and shower. There is even running water, although it might happen that there is no water at all during some days. If that’s the case, Mr. Mohammed will usually bring me water for showering in buckets. Since the water pressure is usually low, I shower by scooping water out of the bucket, which is surprisingly easy for me. I find these kind of showers just as refreshing and efficient as regular ones!
My first days in Muungoni
I was unfortunately not able to start my teaching placement during the first as Eid-al-Fitr celebrations (fast breaking festival at the end of Ramadan) were taking place and the school remained closed. However, I had the great opportunity to be part of Eid!
On the first day of the 4-day festival, a huge celebration was held on the premises of the village school, including an acrobatic show.
I particularly loved how people dressed up during Eid: Everyone was wearing breathtakingly beautiful clothes, especially the children: Magnificent colors, white veils, and all children and even the newborn babies wear strong eye makeup (which I needed to get used to first, but somehow looked quite pretty).
The festival took 4 days in total but on the following days celebrations were limited to the evening hours, when people would meet up in overcrowded festival tents to watch music and theater performances as well as comedy sketches.
Beach day and snorkeling trip
During my first week in Muungoni I also spent 2 days at the beach in Jambiani where I did a snorkeling trip. My friend Ali joined me on the boat, and although he can not swim I think that he still enjoyed the trip. A wonderful day that I will never forget!
The children in the village
The children in the village are absolutely heart-warming. I don’t have any words to describe the feeling when I arrived at the school everyday, and a crowd of around 100 children was running towards me, excitedly shouting „Hello, hello, hello, hello, how are you, how are you“.
The girls in Zanzibar already wear veils from quite a young age. This may appear strange to us (at least it did to me when I was still in Switzerland), but the veils are absolutely pretty and the fabrics are airy and light and you don’t have to worry that the children might be very hot.
School trip to Stone Town
We also arranged an excursion to Stone Town for the 100 children attending Nursery School. The means of transportation were something quite in need of getting used to, since theoretically not even half of the children would have fitted into the bus from my point of view. However, I was absolutely amazed and touched how uncomplicated and adaptable the children are here. 2-3 children squeezed in one seat and yet not a single one of them was crying or complaining, some of them even sleeping when standing.
“There are worlds in between them and the children in my country. I think one of my key learning experiences from this journey is that nothing about human behavior is „naturally given“ but rather learned and a matter of adaption, even the need for food or for safety. “
Furniture for the Nursery School
A very special moment for all of us – and probably a significant moment in the history of the nursing school in Muungoni – was when the furniture sponsored by Heike (World Unite! volunteer) was finally set up in the classrooms.
… and after!
It was so adorable how the children naturally accepted the new tables and chairs just as if that was most ordinary to them.
Since my main task here is teaching, I would like to add a few words about this topic.
Although on arrival I was assured that I would not have to teach independently on my first day of school, but would rather observe and help, this was not the case when I arrived in class on Monday morning.
All 100 children had been put into one class, eagerly awaiting me, including the teacher who just said: “Karibu! You teach, welcome!“
My protests and explanations that I had not been expecting to teach on my first day remained unheard and I finally taught and improvised a lesson for 100 children between 4-6 years, sitting on the ground and enjoying school incredibly much!
This is how the everyday life looks like here: Things will always happen differently than what you might expect. People often don’t make any plans reaching far into the future and if so, the plan might still be subject to change.
The children here almost exclusively learn through verbal repetition in chorus. I am currently trying to change this structure bit by bit by teaching them to answer the question „What is that?“ (by pointing at something that they already know the word for in English. i.e. colors).
All in all, it can be said that I had to completely change my teaching style compared to what I do in Switzerland. But I am enjoying my time here and have a great time learning and adapting to the local teaching styles.
Doctor’s visit in Muungoni
I have also kick-started some smaller projects during my time here, including the sorting and distribution of donated materials, and in addition, I was focusing on a health care aspect, meaning that I was having an eye on sick children.
After I had noticed a boy with a worrying skin rash, I decided to organize a doctor’s visit in the village.
The majority of the people in Muungoni largely live with very little money (self-supporters through agriculture and farming), and thus many people can’t afford to see a doctor, or only so if there is no other way. Amon the children, infectious skin diseases are common and they are just rarely taken to a doctor.
Together with Ali we went to a hospital in Stone Town and consulted with a dermatologist. I asked him if he was willing to come to our village for a visit to treat all children of the nursery school who were in need for medical treatment. Only two days later, a visit set up for a flat rate of USD 200 (considering that the Doctor treated around 70 children, that was a very modest rate!).
I am constantly trying to improve my Swahili skills. In Muunogni it is a huge benefit if you speak at least some words in Kiswahili. The more, the better, because most people do not speak English in the village. Also, people will always be happy if they notice that you are eager to learn and can communicate at least with basic words and phrases.
Leisure time & friends
The people in Muungoni are absolutely friendly, curious, communicative, and very hospitable. When I walked through the village, I heard the children shout my name every few seconds.
I was touched deeply by the fact how much people in the village seemed to trust me. Sometimes I got the impression that they thought I knew everything better and did everything right and I realized that they valued my opinion a lot. Likewise, I always tried to anticipate or to ask them for their opinions.
It is important to bear in mind that the trust people showed me in Muungoni is an expression of the postcolonial relationship between black and white people. This relationship has a significant impact on everyday life, and I will come up with further explanations on this topic in my next post.
On this last photo you can see me, my friend Ali and his sweet daughter.